Less than two months after being crowned FIA Formula 2 Champion and announced as the inaugural member of the AMF1 Driver Development Programme, Felipe Drugovich got behind the wheel of a Formula One car for the very first time.
Having completed more than 300km of running in the AMR21 at Silverstone Circuit – enough to secure the 22-year-old Brazilian the Super Licence he needs to drive in the first free practice session of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – we caught up with Felipe for his immediate reaction.
It's ridiculous how much speed you can carry into the corners.
What's it like to drive an F1 car and how does it compare with other cars you've driven?
It's amazing. It's quite different from what I'm used to in Formula 2. Everything is smooth, the gearshifts are impressive, but the most impressive thing is the lateral grip and lateral g-force that the F1 car produces. It's ridiculous how much speed you can carry into the corners.
How did you prepare for the test?
There's been a break in the F2 calendar since September, so I used that time to focus on general training and fitness – strengthening my neck, for example – ahead of the test. But there's no substitute for driving the car.
I spent a couple of days in the AMF1 simulator, which really helped me get up to speed with the different procedures you have to follow.
Talk us through your run plan for the test – did you achieve everything you wanted to?
The main objective was to complete 300km of running so I can drive in free practice in the Abu Dhabi. Familiarising myself with the different procedures, buttons – how everything works – was another objective. The weather wasn't really on our side.
We completed most of the running in the afternoon on the dry tyres, before switching to wet tyres later on.
What did you learn from the test and how will it help you in the future?
The first time in an F1 car is so important for any driver; you learn so much from being behind the wheel – how the car works with the tyres and how best to prepare the car and the tyres. I now have a much better idea of what to expect in Abu Dhabi.
All the procedures we practised during the test are things I'll be going through when I take to the track there.
You've already experienced many highs in your career. Where does driving an F1 car for the first time rank?
It's something I've dreamt of all my life. To not only sit in an F1 car, but to actually drive it... It will take a while for it to properly sink in. I can't wait to do it again in Abu Dhabi.
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